Mothers have been phoning a foodbank in tears worried about how they will cope in the run-up to Christmas, says the charity as it faces unprecedented demand for food parcels.
Volunteers in Kettering gave out the equivalent of 2,616 meals in just the first week of December - triple the usual amount.
The independent charity said the pandemic, together with rising food and fuel costs, had left many more families teetering on the edge of poverty.
Jane Calcott, a trustee for Kettering Foodbank, said she was really worried about the families she had spoken to.
"I've had ladies crying on the phone, who have never had to use a foodbank before," she said. "They have children - very often single mums - and they are really distressed about the fact that they are having to come to us.
"They don't know how they are going to cope with Christmas and rising food costs. Everything that has gone on this year is suddenly having an impact on people."
Charities such as the Trussell Trust and Christians Against Poverty warn the festive period is often one of the toughest for families who feel pressure to celebrate and spend money.
Sadie James is a mother and grandmother who has had to rely on charity hampers to help her get through.
She has managed to get herself out of debt this year - but admits she still feels pressure to spend money she may not have.
"You see all the things on the TV - it's money, money, money - and you start to panic. Where are you going to find the money to even get your grandkids or your kids a present?
"I find it a bit daunting," she said. "It's not a nice thing. It can be very stressful for me going over and over and over in my mind."
A survey by Christians Against Poverty found over a third of their clients had gone without essentials like food or heating and 80% expected to encounter further financial hardship in the next six months.
Spokesman Jon Taylor said as well as the rise in food and fuel costs, the recent loss of a £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments - which was added during the pandemic - had hit families hard.
In a statement, the government said its Household Support Fund aimed to help the most vulnerable people with essential costs over the winter and added: "We're providing extensive support to those on the lowest incomes, including putting £1,000 more per year on average into the pockets of the lowest earners, increasing the minimum wage next April to £9.50 per hour and helping with the cost of fuel bills."